Monday, October 09, 2006
Riverwest Art Walk -- where to go?
As usual, there's great stuff buried in Riverwest. But we're art dummies; we're not as tied into the scene, so we didn't know where to go. The interesting stuff we happened upon really went just like that -- we happened upon it. We'd looked all over the newspapers (the Journal, the Shepherd, etc) for somebody, clued into the scene, to tell us where to go, and came up short. What, are we supposed to go and discover for ourselves? We want our art spoon-fed to us!
Besdies, with two kids in tow, we knew we wouldn't be able to do it all. So we stopped in to get our tickets at the Art Bar, where the've still got that peace art project exhibit up. I re-acquainted myself with an Ask Me Why I'm Voting No button, and hit the street. First stop, La Escuela Fratney, still smelling of fresh paint and varnish fro their recent remodel. Then, an annual visit to Catherine Cowling's garden. I'm going to have to hire her to consult. That woman knows how to make the most of a Milwaukee postage stamp of a yard. And Milwaukee her garden is: I'm know I'm not the first (and I won't be the last) to wax poetic on the bowling balls, but she's done the obvious, and declared that if you're going to have a Milwaukee garden, its really not complete without bowling balls. I also like that she's on the artwalk: really good gardening is art.
We stopped in at Insurgent Theatre, while there wasn't exactly any theatre going on. Instead a band (which a buddy over at Flickr clued me into realizing was made up of fragments of the Danglers, a band I need to get out and see again) was jamming, while we snacked on some vegetarian chili. We must've been there while the actors were taking a break, because the same guys we saw chilling out in the yard were the same two who showed up at the former Jazz Gallery building about a half hour later. They walked in and announced that for a dollar, they would perform. Actually, it was more like the one actor, leashed and standing on a milk crate like an organ grinder's monkey, who would perform anything. Being the cheapskates that we are, I asked for a free sample and was treated to some shakespearian method acting thang before the "master" yanked the performer off the crate and shooed themselves away.
I didn't have a chance to pay them; I was too busy making sure Sammy stayed in the lines for a group mural being organized at the same place, by an artist named Kitty. I didn't get Kitty's last name, but everybody who came in was invited to fill in a tile of paint-by-numbers colors, and Kitty was more than patient with Sammy while I snapped away at pictures. The final install will be at the Art Bar, and just this morning I saw a black and white shot of it being assembled. I'll go visit with the kids sometime this week, during a time like an art show when its appropriate to bring kids into a bar that isn't a neighborhood tap.
Ah, I miss a lot of things about Riverwest -- the activism, for one. Bomb posters all over the place, and a defiant blue shirt painted on a creamy yellow building reminded us we were in the art neighborhood populated by artists who aren't worrying about corporate opposition to their message. The prices on some of the art reflected that as well. Mark Lawson was curating an exhibit in a lower flat on Center street, that included some nice multiple exposure work by a young photographer which was, for its quality, extremely underpriced: $200 for a large piece that must've cost the artist that much in materials alone. Yeah, you're not necessarily making your art for the money now, but after a while, you're going to get sick of ramen noodles for dinner. And that seems to tie in to my original lament. I'm an outsider now. I didn't know where to go, and I wasn't nudged one way or the other by the media, the Riverwest Artist Association itself, or any of the artists. I'm wondering if they're either too cool to do better self-promotion or they simply don't know how. My list of artists provided by my family admission fee featured simply their names, addresses, and what their medium was. No little paragraphs enticing me to choose one over the other. On one hand, I know it’s a egalatarian group effort; on the other, I need to know a little more than simply "printmaking" to be able to tell if its something I'm interested in seeing. But I'm going to blame this fumble on the media, rather than the RAA. It wasn't the job of the RAA to separate the wheat from the chaff for me. C'mon Milwaukee media -- Gallery Night isn't the only art event that ever happens. You let the ball slip right through your hands just like Favre and Colledge did during yesterday's typical Packer game.